What do you have in common with Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Eiza Gonzalez, and Michelle Rodriguez? Visit Rainbow Sports Go-kart Course, and you can be “Fast & Furious” too!
As a fan of kart racing, I was excited even before arriving at Rainbow Sports. Located on the west side of central Kuwana, about 10 minutes by car from either Hoshikawa Station or Akatsukigakuen-Mae Station, Rainbow Sports is in a slightly hilly area and surrounded by trees.
As I came around the corner, a large sign welcomed me to the racing circuit, and I knew I was in the right place. My hands gripped my own steering wheel in anticipation. As I passed through the entrance gate and reached the top of the short hill, a large parking area spread out in front of me, and off to the right as well. There were several cars parked up next to open “garage” like pits where racers were busy prepping their karts to race. There was a nearly constant roar of engines as these privately owned karts zoomed by on the main stretch, just on the other side of the pits.
I parked and made my way into the reception and waiting area. It was exciting to see helmets and maintenance tools for karts, as well as trophies and other items lined up along one wall. There were posters with information about what seemed to be various events, and a map of the course, showing the best places to position your kart for corners.
I made my way to the reception desk. A friendly-looking man came out from the office and greeted me. Mr. Watanabe, the owner and operator of Rainbow Sports, explained the system to me and answered my questions about the course. I explained that I had driven go karts before at Suzuka Circuit in Mie, and Ishino Circuit near Toyota, Aichi, so he skipped the basics and told me just what I needed to know about this particular course.
I asked what made Rainbow Sports different than the other go kart circuits in central Japan. He explained that most circuits are completely flat, but here, the course was built on a slight incline, so that as you left the last hairpin corner, you come out into the final stretch on a slight decline. He said that many drivers compared coming around that corner to riding a roller coaster. I was sold! Every other course I had been on was flat. Adding another dimension to the race sounded great!
Other courses, he continued, provide rental karts that go up to 50 kph or 60 kph. Rental cars at Rainbow Sports however, can reach 70 kph! He gave me a slight grin which I returned two-fold. I could hardly wait to get on the course!
At Rainbow Sports, there are scheduled times for rental kart racing - where anyone can just show up and rent a go kart, and other times that are reserved, usually by members who come regularly.
I chose the 8 lap course. There are several options for rental karts, with prices significantly lower for members who pay a yearly membership fee of 5000 yen.
3laps 1400 yen
8laps 2800 yen
14laps 4200 yen
RaceSet 5600 yen
It was 3:00. That meant rental kart time. We moved to the rental kart garage. There, I emptied my pockets and put all my belongings into a locker. There didn’t seem to be any keys, but I only had a couple of things. (If you’re worried, you can leave your belongings in your car, but I’m sure they have keys. Just ask.)
After my pockets were empty, I donned a paper cap, and then a helmet. There are a variety of sizes to choose from, so you can find something that is a perfect fit. Then you get some “racing” gloves. As you can see from the photo, I’m not wearing a racing suit. To be honest, I like the rules here, aside from needing to wear sneakers, they aren’t too picky about what you wear. Other circuits may require you to wear long pants or long-sleeved shirts (or wear a cover for your right arm because it’s near the engine).
There was another driver who came for the rental kart racing, so Mr. Watanabe gave instructions on how to get on and off the kart. Step on the seat. Don’t touch the engine or battery. Brace yourself with the steering wheel and the back of the seat. Same for getting out. The karts are small, but the engines get really hot! Be careful!
The instructions for driving were even shorter. Right pedal to go, left pedal to stop. Turn the wheel and the cart will turn. Don’t crash.
Soon, I was flying around the course. Sure enough, that last corner coming into the final stretch was a lot of fun coming down! The decline really helped you gain speed as you hit the finish line and continued for another lap. 8 laps came too quickly and soon the checkered flag was waving for me. I finished my final lap and came into the pit stop area.
I noticed a marker by the 20. “20p” Mr. Watanabe explained that certain positions get points. You can see in the photo which positions get points and exactly how many points they get. At first I was surprised to learn that the person in 20th place gets the most points, but Mr. Watanabe smiled as only someone who has repeatedly seen the confusion so obvious in my face can smile.
“You can shoot for 1st place, but it’s almost impossible to get 20th place by shooting for it. It’s just luck!” he explained with a grin.
I agreed, but what good are points, I thought. Mr. Watanabe had read my mind. He pointed to a small chart next to the Time Trial chart. In addition to cool prizes like helmets or gloves, you could even get a FREE trip to GUAM!! And, Mr. Watanabe pointed out, more than a few have received that prize!
With the adrenaline from racing still coursing through my body, this new information about getting free prizes almost clouded my reasoning. Thinking about it makes one realize that it’s much cheaper to simply buy a ticket to Guam, than to try and win it for “free” by paying to rent a go kart every month, but the whole idea is to have fun with the karts and if you get a free trip to Guam along the way? Awesome!
So I went to the roof of the building which acts as an observation point for spectators. There was even a winner’s stand, so I took my rightful place on top and celebrated my victory with an imaginary trophy.
A few pieces of information for those of you who are ready to try out kart racing at Rainbow Sports:
Basic requirements to drive:
Be over 145 centimeters tall. That’s it! You’re ready to race! You don’t need a drivers license, but if you take younger children, they may be asked to participate in a training course. Just remember that these carts go really fast.
Several events are held throughout the year. Endurance racing events for complete beginners and separate events for experienced drivers. This allows newer drivers to have a better chance of winning. These events last 3 hours or longer and teams are made up of any number of drivers. According to Mr. Watanabe, teams with 3 or 4 drivers usually perform best.
Some events have live announcers calling out developments in the race, other side attractions for spectators or other riders who are waiting their turn during endurance race matches, and even food trucks!
Rainbow Sports will even rent the entire circuit to you or your organization for half a day or whole day - whatever your needs are. The price will be determined by time and number of cars used - not number of riders which is perfect for groups with some people who want to try it out just a little, but end up not racing again. More racing for the people who like to race!
Please check the Rainbow Sports HP for further details on events and more!
As of 2019, Mr. Watanabe is 46 years old, and has been operating the circuit for over 20 years. He took over the course from his father a few years after graduating from university. He’s very friendly and easy to approach. To people who are thinking about trying out racing karts, he says “Anybody can do it. Racing karts lets you experience a new dimension! People who come by themselves often just do practice sets, but when groups of 5 or more come, they usually do a race set. After doing a few practice laps, you do a course start. It’s a lot of fun!”